My Top 10 Best Ideas

OK, so I really feel like even after 15 years of parenting, I totally stink at this gig. However, there are moments where I feel I out-shine my biggest expectations. Please note these are the best ideas for MY family! I am absolutely not telling you this is the best way because I am not stupid. I realize every family has to find there own groove. These are my hacks that have made life in the Gardner Household far easier.

Here are my favorite (in no particular order):

10. Teaching my kids to cook at an early age. Now that they are older they can cook dinner without supervision! Can I just tell you how awesome it is to not have to worry about making dinner every night.

9. Split the house into zones. I give them a number and they scurry off and clean that area. When they cooperate the house gets fully clean in under 30 minutes.

8. Use Perfectly Posh Gender Bender to remove stains … including nail polish! Posh makes no claims that the soap is anything more than a nourishing, tallow-free, moisturizing soap, but it worked wonders when a certain daughter spilled nail polish all over my carpet and hid it from me instead of telling. I found it 2 days later but Gender Bender and a little elbow grease got the polish completely out of our carpet!

7. Letting the kids pick their own extracurricular activities instead of imposing my own desires on them. If I had my way they would all be little theater buffs. To date, none of them are in theater. However, when they love what they are doing, they tend to try their best.

6. When shopping with little kids always bring a sharpie marker. Why? Because they can be used on mirrors in fitting room and wipe off easily with a baby wipe.
Why are you in a fitting room with all the kids?
*Baby wanted to breastfeed and you need quiet or they rip your nipple off while looking around and nursing at the same time because stores are exciting for them. So you pop over to the fitting rooms and settle with the baby and let the toddler create art on the mirror. Now if only they would deliver a coffee to the fitting rooms ….
*You have 3 little ones 5 and under and you need to hide while you cry because what the he** were you thinking when you thought that you could take 3 little kids to Target??
*You actually need to try on clothes and you really don’t want your toddler climbing under all the dressing room doors and scaring the sh** out of all the other women also trying on clothes.
*Because it is a great idea.

5. Push Ups. Forget time out. Time out does nothing if you aren’t going to teach your child how to cam themselves by taking slow deep breathes etc. Time outs make them mad at you because it is soooooooo unfair so they retaliate and draw on the walls when you turn your back. How do you punish that? They did it while in punishment! Instead make them do push-ups! Sure they grumble and complain, but they learn how to do proper push ups before the rest of their peers and, I kid you not, it becomes a bragging right. They get stronger and learn that positive physical activity can help them. When they are done we talk about what they did wrong and what they can do different next time. The push ups help them get into a clearer mind faster so the conversation actually sinks into their brains!

4. The girls are terrible at cleaning their room. They can literally take a full day to do a 5 minute job. Ground them, take away dessert, etc and nothing changes. Heck, I have even thrown away their toys! Yes, in the trash, not into a bucket to earn back. Doesn’t matter. They could care less. Do you realize how annoying this is?? I want their rooms clean. It is a safety issue and, to be honest, I hate messes. It overwhelms me and makes me irrational. So how did I finally get them to clean and in a timely manner? I bet them they couldn’t clean their room in the time it took the Mission Impossible theme song to play. I blasted the song and stood at their door and watched (because I didn’t want stuff shoved under beds etc). I have never seen them move so fast. The song is 3 minutes and 28 seconds long. I think this is a new cleaning record. I don’t mind losing this bet.

3. No screen time during the week. Period. I have a basket and phones and tablet go in there unless I give the say so. Bored? Go play a game or ride your bike. Read, write, or be bored. Just stay off electronics. I am watching a terrible trend of disconnect. Humans are losing empathy and I really think it is lack of real human interaction that is the cause. Maybe I am wrong, but I know this isn’t hurting them and may benefit them. If this doesn’t work for you, I totally get it. I promise we do not judge. To each their own, but I promise you this has made our lives more pleasant and far more simple.

2. I took Facebook off my phone. It is still on my tablet and that goes with me everywhere also, but I am more likely to not check it 500 times a day. I also took Snapchat, Twitter Tumblr, etc off my phone … the only thing I kept was Instagram because I do like to post pictures easily. All of these are on my tablet, so I am still connected via social media, but I am on it far less and much happier for it. Bonus, my kids have also noticed I am not on it as much and they are also happier.

1. Everyday I tell myself “You are doing the best you can in the moment. Give yourself a break.” OK, so sometimes I then call myself a liar and tell myself I am terrible at this parenting thing and I may even cry ugly tears, but if I keep telling myself I am doing my best then maybe I will one day believe it and maybe my kids will see I tried and refused to give up on myself. Maybe it will help them to learn to never give up on themselves. If that is the one thing I succeed at, then I did well.

~Andrea

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Dinner Time Antics

*I have been going through my drafts. I found this little gem. I assume I never posted because I didn’t have a picture. I happened to remember the picture below is on my computer still. Zen isn’t 1 in the picture, like he is in my  post, but he is still crazy and the picture is fitting. 

When you give a one year old his dinner he is going to want what everyone else is having instead. When you give him what everyone else is having he is going to want his very own bowl and spoon, just like everyone else.

Once you give him his spoon and bowl with “big person” food you are going to have to let him feed himself or he will scream.

When you let a one year old feed himself with his very own bowl and his very own spoon you are most assuredly,at some point, going to catch that spoon as it zooms through the air.

When you give a one year old his very own bowl full of food that bowl will end up upside down on the floor and food will splatter everywhere.

When you give a one year old dinner in his very own bowl with his very own spoon and the spoon flies through the air and the bowl lands spectacularly on the floor upside down you will have a guffawing group of children who all yell “We told you it was a bad idea Mom!!!!

Needless to  say, when you give a one year old dinner there is never a dull moment.

~Andrea

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Crossroads

This year has been emotionally hard on me. One really big reason why is I have had more days than not when I feel like homeschooling 4 kids and caring for a toddler is just not for me. The only person I have mentioned this to is Mark so this is probably going to surprise those who know me best.

I struggle nearly everyday. I am worn from it. I really feel like the 2 girls would benefit from at least a year in a formal school setting. They are so much fun to be with, but I think they both need to find some independence away from their big brothers. I would like to see them blossom into their own beings. Their brothers, bless them, hold them back a little. I know they do not realize it. They are just protective.

My oldest is also going to “officially” be in high school this next year. I would like to focus more energy on getting him situated so he can achieve his very lofty life goals. My sweet 12 year old son would stay home with me also. He struggles and over the years we have discovered the best ways to help him learn and retain information. They are very nontraditional methods so a traditional school setting really wouldn’t be in his best interest.

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Elf is turning into a bookworm. She loves books as much as her eldest brother!

What do I do? I really do not want to send the girls to public school. I am not criticizing public school at all. My oldest went to public school for 2 years and Elf went for half a year until we changed school districts. My objection is personal to our family dynamics, beliefs, and goals. These are things that each family must personally decide on. For me, public school isn’t really an option at this time. I say “at this time” because I am not so bold as to say I am 100% against it. I am open for a change of mind and heart so long as it is the right choice for US.

That leaves private school. Who has money for that though? I have searched local schools and scholarship options. I actually have one place bookmarked that we may be able to make a reality. I have yet to get in touch with the school, but I plan to. There is also online school. That would keep the girls home without having to worry about planning their school days. That doesn’t help with my wanting them to develop themselves away from their brothers though.

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Princess making a cake while Zen watches. 

I really have no idea what I am going to do. Although Mark and I are a team, this is ultimately my decision since I am the one who is home all day with the kids. I know I have my husband’s support and that does make it easier. I know that when I make a decision he will back me up. That is a good feeling. Right now though, I am torn. I am not 100% convinced either way. I am no closer to an answer than I was in October. Time is not on my side. I need to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Why am I bothering telling you all of this if I am at a loss for what I am going to do? Well, writing it all out makes it more real. I need to see how I will react once I start getting feedback, because I know there will be feedback. Also, I feel like I can’t be the only parent struggling with the decision on what type of schooling is best for their child(ren). I want others to know they aren’t alone. The struggle is real. We are all just trying to do what is best and it is OK to doubt through the process.
~Andrea

“Houston, We Have a Toddler”

We realized that on a daily basis we are saying some pretty funny things. Zen is definitely an active toddler. He is full of joy and life and loves to be chased. One day, after a very funny “He’s a rainbow again!” My kids and I sat down and wrote out everything said in a day’s time. That’s right, this is all just one day. This is not a complaint at all. We love our toddler and his antics, even when Momma gets frustrated and tired. This is a small season and this post will be a treasured memory for us. I hope you enjoy it.

Off the table, Buddy!

Who left the markers out where the baby could get them! He looks like a rainbow!

Stop eating playdoh!

Don’t pull the dog’s tail!

Can someone help me pick up all this Kleenex. The baby tore the box apart.

Why are there stickers all over the baby’s face?

Off the table you go!

What on earth is in your mouth now?

Where did you get that stamp? Guys, we can’t have stamps out when the baby is awake!

Who forgot to put the baby lock back on the cabinet in the kitchen?

Why is there a pan randomly in the middle of the stairs?

Seriously! Get off the table!

Oh no! He got into my desk and has all the Post-its!

Quick! Close your bedroom door before the baby gets your legos!

Sigh. The baby got to your legos.

The toilet plunger is NOT a toy.

Why are you on the table again?

Please take a nap. Please take a nap. PLEASE, just take a nap!

I’m gonna get you! (squeals of laughter)

Time to change you diaper. No, wait! Get back here!

Stop eating our Gingerbread Train!

What do y’all not understand about keeping markers away from the baby!

Stop giving your food to the dog!

He’s on the table again.

Why on earth are you carrying the trash can around?

Toilet water is not for playing in.

How did you get that orange? Let me peel it for you. Ew! Come on! Please let me peel it.

Don’t pull on the Christmas tree!

I found another ornament in some random place.

Why are you pushing the chair around?

Naked baby on the loose!

Leave Daddy’s glasses alone.

Table. Off.

Don’t put that in your ear.

Get off the dog.

Mommy’s phone is not a toy.

How did you manage to unbuckle the stroller belt?

We don’t throw our food on the floor.

Mom! He’s on the table!

Well, get him off the table then!

But he’s screaming.

Fine. I give up. Stay on the table, just don’t fall.

Um....not sure why he is on his head, but we will just go with it.

Um….not sure why he is on his head, but we will just go with it.

Parent-Child Dates

It is very easy for a child to get “lost” in the chaos of 4 siblings to “compete” with. We try very hard to have alone time with each child. This isn’t always easy. We participate in their activities, I teach each one (well, except Zen) to cook a new dish at least once a week, we play games (C-Dog loves playing RISK with Daddy), and we take them on “dates.”
Sometimes all it takes is a trip to the store to pick up something for dinner or a walk around the block and the child feels special. Other times the child needs a bit more.
This is when we bring them to the playground, movie, zoo, etc. Today it is Elf’s turn. She was needing a bit of “Daddy time” so they put on their raincoats and headed into the city! They are enjoying the zoo today.

If you have children in your life what do you do to help them feel like an individual and special? Please share with me!
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How cute is she??? Ah! I really love this picture ❤

Grocery Store Positives and Parenting Mistakes

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Here is a new picture of me and my guy. Picture by Zachary Maricle Photography

Earlier today (at the time of publishing it was actually last week) I was at the grocery store shopping and a woman stopped me to tell me I am “stunning.” She was talking to a friend and interrupted her conversation to tell me this. She wanted to make sure I understood just how beautiful she thinks I am. The conversation was only about a minute, but she said a lot in a few words and it impacted me.

Today I am not wearing make up and my hair is simply back in the same bun at the nap of my neck that I put it in every single day. I have only my wedding ring on for jewelry. I am wearing a simple black maxi skirt and a black tank top and flip flops. I blend in. I am completely average, yet she noticed me and felt I needed to hear that I am beautiful.

The thing she did next is what got me. She turned to my daughters and said “Your Momma is beautiful and you look just like her. You are beautiful children.”

Their faces glowed with pride. They smiled so beautifully at this stranger. They went from average children shopping with their Momma to beautiful angels in the matter of seconds.

Elf is dressed in her low-maintenance shorts and t-shirt with a simply pony tail. Princess is wearing a simple sundress that cost me a whole $1. Her hair is down and disheveled (the look she sports by mid day). They are clean, but they certainly aren’t “at their best.” They look like average children.

There are times I look at their freshly washed hair and their nicer clothes and I think “Gosh they are gorgeous.” Rarely do I think this when they are at the normal appearance. This isn’t because I do not think they are beautiful; they are. They are incredibly gorgeous. They have thick dark eyelashes and eyes that twinkle so prettily. Their smiles beam joy. When they are at their average I just don’t really fully appreciate these things.

Worse is I never, ever think I am beautiful. There are times I think “OK, I look well enough.” I never think I look great though. In fact, I am downright critical of my appearance. Some days I just do not care, but other days it bugs me. My hair is frizzy, I have wrinkles forming, I need to color my hair, I need to lose this blasted baby weight.

I know this self-criticism annoys my husband, but I can’t seem to stop it. I could go into details of my childhood and teen years, but that isn’t necessary to know I have self-image issues.

Today was a bit of an eye-opener. When this stranger complemented me and then turned to my girls and made sure they saw my beauty in them I realized I kind of stink at making sure my girls don’t grow up with self-image issues. I never, ever refer to them in a negative way…well, except when they have morning breathe. Gah, that is awful stuff. However, they see me and hear me criticize myself. This has GOT to be impacting them.

Sigh, I thought I was doing so good. I tell them they are smart and funny and creative. I dropped the ball at showing them how to love themselves by loving myself.

They never hear me embrace my strengths. I am not just talking about physical appearances. It is hard for me to even think about what my talents and strengths are. Do they even know what I am good at besides wiping snotty noses? Do they know I used to have a fully functioning brain, as opposed to the auto-pilot I seem to currently function on.

Not only is all of this impacting my girls, it is impacting my sons. I want them to marry strong people. I want the people they marry to have confidence. I want them to be successful in whatever they chose to do. However, they spend all their time with me and I am not showing them these qualities why would they look for them in their partner? I need to make some changes before it is too late.

Who was this woman? How did she know that I needed to hear these words when I didn’t even know I needed to hear them. I wasn’t feeling badly about myself at all. I was feeling average. Just a mom out shopping with 3 of her kids. Nothing spectacular and nothing really worth noticing, but she did notice. She noticed and made sure I knew and for that I am thankful.

Maybe we all need to start noticing those around us more. We don’t know what their struggles are. We don’t know their self-doubts. They could be having a perfectly fine day, but does that meant they aren’t deserving of a little extra positive also?

I learned three things:
1) Stop being self-critical, especially in front of the children. Instead embrace the qualities that matter and focus on that.
2) Notice people around me more and let them know they matter.
3) Apparently the grocery store is where life changing events happen for me. Maybe I need to start hanging out there 😉

Impetuous Chap

Last night I was sitting in The Chair putting Zen to sleep. He was nearly there. The 3 elder kids were in their bedroom, supposedly going to sleep. Suddenly I heard yelling, a loud crash, and the worst scream known to mankind. The kind of scream that makes you want to vomit. One of the kids was hurt. Badly. Mark went running. I looked down at the sweet, closed eyes of Zen and in that half a second I made the decision to join Mark. He is more than capable, a very hands on daddy, but one of my kids was hurt. I needed to be with whomever it was. I jumped up while Zen continued to nurse, his eyes fluttering. Mark yelled, “GET ICE!!” I fumbled with it twice before getting it to the bedroom. I passed a pacing Bug and saw C-dog on the floor, writhing is pain. I have no clue where Elf was. I know she was there but once I saw the hurt child I saw nothing else.

“WHAT HAPPENED???”
“He jumped off the top bunk.”
“What? Why? That isn’t even his bed!”

Apparently C-dog thought it would be a brilliant idea to jump off the bed in order to catch the balloon. The balloon. It is Zen’s. Mark bought it for him for the early celebration of his upcoming first birthday. I have been after Princess and C-Dog all week long to just leave it alone. It isn’t theirs to play with. They struggle with self-control though and on top of it C-dog it impetuous to the max. If anyone reading this has a Sensory or Spectrum kid you can totally relate to this.

Anyway, the ribbon came off and the balloon was on the ceiling and C-Dog wanted it. Nothing else mattered. Bedtime didn’t matter. Staying out of his brother’s bed, which is a rule, didn’t matter. Safety didn’t matter. He jumped.

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Zen was fully awake now. It is going to take forever to get him back to sleep but I need to focus on one issue at a time and the hurt child obviously comes first.

After a quick assessment Mark gathered C-dog into his arms and headed out to the local Emergency Department. I was left to get the others calmed and asleep. Bug and Elf were no problem. They went to bed and fell asleep. Bless them. ❤ Princess laid on the couch waiting for me to “nuggle” her. She fell asleep waiting. 😦 I will have to give her extra cuddles tonight.

Zen and I trekked through the uncharted waters of “I am tired. I want to sleep. I want Mommy to hold me. I do not want to nurse anymore, but I have no clue how to fall asleep in her arms without nursing.” Usually I have Mark put Zen to sleep when he doesn’t want to nurse. We managed and Zen succumbed and drifted off into dreamland. Whew. One less worry….

Mark reported to me that when the doctor asked C-Dog what happened he said “I foolishly jumped off the top bunk.” Well, that is something at least! He realizes what he did was foolish! He doesn’t always realize this even when he gets hurt. I just hope this lesson doesn’t get lost and forgotten.

The doctor claims “It is not broken.” C-Dog slept on the couch just fine but woke in pain and has been complaining all day long. He can’t put any pressure on his foot. He needs help getting around. My instinct tells me I need to consider getting a second opinion. Bah.

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UPDATE: After a full day of not being able to put any weight onto his foot I decided that I had to bring him somewhere else. I brought him to the local orthopedic urgent care this morning. Of course this was after I got lost in discussion with him as we were driving the 30+ minutes it takes to get to this place and missed my exit resulting in a nice side trip to the state south of us (we live near the boarder). Anyway, the new place took X-rays from different angles and C-Dog fractured one of the growth plates in his foot. 😦 He is more sore after all the handling he had to endure. He has a boot-cast and a walker. He isn’t to put any weight on the foot for several days and then he can with aid of the walker. Eventually he will wean off the walker and just get around with the boot. His next follow up is in 10 days to see how it is healing.
C-Dog and his walker